J.C. Penney will open its stores at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving in search of an edge over Macy's and Kohl's. J.C. Penney said on Monday it would open its stores for Black Friday shopping at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, an hour earlier than its closest competitors Macy's, Kohl's and Sears, and three hours earlier than it did last year, in the latest upping of the ante in the holiday sales wars. It's easy to see why Penney would want to gain an edge on its rivals in what promises to be a bruising, super-promotional holiday season.

Along with the bigger news of plans to close 33 stores leading to the layoff of 2,000 workers, J.C. Penney also revealed last week that it was reinstating commission pay for associates in its window coverings, furniture and fine jewelry departments. The switch, set to occur in February and March, will affect more than 3,000 associates. "Offering a competitive salary base that includes a commission incentive not only helps in retaining some of our best sales associates, it motivates them to build and maintain stronger customer relationships," the company stated in an email sent to media outlets. 

High-end fashion brands have been replacing decades-old clientelling methodologies (e.g., black books and handwritten index cards) with iPads and customer management systems that provide employees access to customer information on-the-go. Mobile technology enables store associates to both offer the right product or service to consumers at the right time and to transfer customer ownership into a centralized database instead of storing it in the employee's head. In high-end retail environments, where a one-on-one shopping experience is the norm, arming individual sales associates with mobile devices can help increase sales.

J.C. Penney and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia on Monday announced a revised agreement that eliminates Stewart's products in home goods categories to which rival Macy's claims exclusive rights. The amended deal calls for the domestic doyenne's company to design Martha Stewart-branded products for J.C. Penney in window treatment, holiday and other categories not claimed by Macy's. Penney also gave up its 17 percent stake in Martha Stewart's company. Macy's sued J.C. Penney and Martha Stewart Living after the two announced a partnership in December 2011. 

Terry Lundgren, CEO and chairman of Macy's, said last week that that his company has benefited from the troubles at J.C. Penney Co. — though not as much as he'd like. "Yes, I think it's helped, a little," Lundgren said. "Listen, I was up just a billion-two ($1.2 billion) last year. What was Penney's down? Four billion down. So we're not getting our share. But I think the customer there is trading down. That's what I think is happening." Lundgren said, speaking before a gathering of business reporters.

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